Saturday, August 29, 2009

FEATURE 29 - Musick Non Stop Electro Pop

There is currently a style revival of eighties electro-pop going on. The electronics being sparse, stripped bare of any pretense of being 'real' instruments that could be plucked, banged or twanged, this music is deliberately tinny and unaffectedly artificial. In the eighties this brought the vocalist to the fore providing human warmth, to contrast with the grey coolness of the musical backing. This was the era of richly toned, if not melodramatic, vocalists such as Annie Lennox, Alison Moyet, Phil Oakey and Marc Almond. In this regard the current electro-pop revival falls short, in that the singers are distinctly not in that league, varying from singers whose vocal ability and range is polished - Little Boots - to dull and out of tune - La Roux. This can mean the vocal interplay with the electronics frequently falls on its heavily made up face.

Her debut album 'Hands' bursts into galloping, foot stomping, high energy life on tracks such as 'Remedy','New in Town' and 'Stuck on Repeat'. Sorry it doesn't fit my blog better, You Tube have altered their set formats.

Her abilities as a tune smith are undoubtedly well honed, though lyrically she veers far to often for my liking into a banality you hoped had died there last breath with the demise of Stock Aitken & Waterman. The album is strangled by the hands of its production values, making arrangements fussy and overladen with layers of detailing that get buried in the accumulated sediment. A quality of electro-pop established by its progenitors Kraftwerk is a sharp and crisp clarity to the overall sound. Hopefully in future she'll do more performances as minimal as this one on 'Later with..' This is a pure delight, the song 'Meddle' is the undoubted highlight of her album, a quirky beat, accompanied by a beautifully articulated melody and lyric, this is a stunner.

Vocally Little Boots in the mode of Kylie and Madonna, in that she's not particularly an outstanding vocalist, and can easily bland into the indistinguishable gaggle of 'noughties' female singers. Musical references and straight steals of electronic beats and riffs abound, so she's not breaking any new boundaries here either. The duet with Phil Oakey on 'Symmetry' is a nod towards someone for whom she owes more than a pound or two of her royalties too.

Poor La Roux, undoubtedly she leads the electro-pop eighties revival, complete with outrageous haircut and clothes. She also best captures the musical style, particularly on her hit 'Bulletproof'.

This is spot on, and here at least the production values are correct. If only her vocals were up to it, on her eponymous album these are frequently not just feeble but excruciatingly off key in the worst karaoke tradition. She should be severely restrained from ever singing in falsetto ever again as on 'I'm not your toy' or 'In for the kill'. In contrast to 'Little Boots' the tunes are often quite flimsy affairs. This can be forgiven, overlooked or even transcended if you have the lungs and larynx to brazen it out, but faced with La Roux's major Achilles heal, you're left with too many songs that rarely transcend the poverty of melody. The best of the bunch are the tracks Colourless Colour', 'Tigerlily' and 'Quicksand'. Here is a truly awful live performance of 'I'm not your toy' if your stomach can last more than a minute into this, then award yourself a gold medal.

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